As the scary costumes get put away for another year, we welcome in the last month of autumn. The clocks have gone back an hour and we are waking up to dark and cold mornings, but that’s no excuse not to wrap up warm and enjoy the outdoors.
As the trees hang on to the last of their leaves, their bare branches reveal the full extent of rookeries. The wise birds are still keeping one eye on their nests and the other on any good twigs their neighbours have managed to collect.
The oak trees are shredding their acorns, one of the last trees to release their seeds; relying on jays and grey squirrels to disperse them far and wide. During medieval times the English regarded acorns as a good luck charm and carried them as symbols of prosperity, youthfulness and power.
With the trees becoming bare, we’re forced to look elsewhere for signs of life in Britain’s woodlands. This colour often comes in the way of evergreens, and other plants particularly indicative of Christmas. Look out for mistletoe, ivy, and female holly trees bearing their distinctive red berries. Ivy especially is a real draw for garden birds. For other ways to attract wildlife to you garden, click on the link for more information. Now is the best time to be planting trees or hedges in your own garden.
Don’t expect to see many signs of mammals during the winter! However, not all species go into full hibernation – bats enter a state of ‘torpor’ and will only emerge on warmer days. This reduces energy requirements and helps them to survive the colder months when food is scarce. Badgers also undergo a period of reduced activity and fatten themselves up during the autumn to prepare. Dormice and hedgehogs go into hibernation during the winter season, typically beginning in November.
This is the month when grey seals give birth to their single pup, their fur changing from the famous white to grey in only two or three weeks. The colonies can be seen around the west, north, and north-west coastlines of Britain.
Atlantic salmon are currently making their way up our rivers to their spawning grounds, if you get a chance it is well worth locating a local river where you can witness them leaping from the water in their struggle against the current. Luckily in this country you won’t be fighting bears for a good view.
Large migrations of waders and wildfowl from their arctic breeding grounds to our wetlands and estuaries as the temperatures drop. At this time of year, a trip to your local wetland reserve can prove satisfying with an abundance of incoming duck species. Look out for Wigeon, Teal, Shovelers, and Tufted ducks; as well as flocks of migratory geese, and some less common duck species such as Pintail and Goldeneye.
- Keep an eye out for Whooper and Bewick swans, which are returning to the UK after a long migration from their summer home in the Arctic.
Caring for the birds in your garden is all the more important as food begins to become scarce. Now is a good time to begin putting hanging peanuts and scattered seeds out. However you must remember that if you start putting food out you shouldn’t suddenly stop as the birds’ may be relying on your supply. If you have a nest box it is a good time to give it a clean out in order to remove parasites. Rather than leave it empty, put some natural lining back in as, some small birds gather to keep warm during the colder months and a lined bird box would be ideal for this.
The UK’s woodlands can provide a fruitful bounty in autumn and winter when fungi are most widespread. Our blog article on fungal foraging will ensure you don’t get caught out – particularly if you’re a novice forager.
November is most well known as the month of Guy Fawkes. It is important to remember the wildlife in your preparations for the evening. If you are having bonfires remember to check any logs or leaves for hibernating animals such as toads and hedgehogs. The numbers of hedgehogs have decreased rapidly in recent years and they are now protected in the UK. Hedgehogs are such a staple animal in British culture, appearing in some of the best-loved children’s literature, it is important we don’t lose this widely adored animal from our countryside.